Half of my spring break was spent on the road—Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida—and the other half noticing not only the amount of grammar and spelling errors I’d see from day-to-day, but how many words are used and written differently.
Here at District, I use the 2010 AP Stylebook in conjunction with Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition (“The Official Dictionary of the Associated Press”).
In reviewing my column “Write good: or well,” it was brought to my attention that the word “peruse” was used incorrectly. I spun in my seat and argued that there was no way “peruse” could mean “to read casually” and also “to scrutinize.”
The thought left me perplexed. “How could a word possibly mean one thing and its opposite?” Yet, alas I stand corrected.
I’m left with more confusion as the English language reveals itself as even more confusing than I had thought.
So, without further ado, this week’s lesson: “Which is it?!”
The use of “peruse”: revisited
Webster’s lists three definitions of the word. How else besides hearing it in context will you ever know which it truly is?
To examine in detail; scrutinize
To read carefully or thoroughly; study
To read in a casual or leisurely way
What a trashy mess
In a recent article I reviewed, trash was the subject. I was told it should be spelled “trashcan” or “trashbin” and the author had something completely different. Here are the acceptable AP Style methods:
“Dumpster” is capitalized, as it is a trademark for a large metal trash bin.
I often see writers throw hyphens as “joiners” (as the Stylebook calls them) in places where they do not need to be. A hyphen is used to reduce ambiguity in two or more words that may otherwise be confusing. “In most cases,” the Stylebook says, “[it's] a matter of taste, judgment and style sense.”
Here are some examples of correct usage:
Use your dictionary and some form of style book, whether it be AP, MLA or Chicago. You do have one, right?Contact Kenneth Rosen.